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He caused one death. Not another!

… an officer who is entrusted by the law with the sacred duty of naming judges [jurors] of life & death for his fellow citizens, and who selects them exclusively from among his political & party enemies, ought never to have in his power a second abuse of that tremendous magnitude … I only condemn an officer … who selects judges [jurors] for principles which lead necessarily to condemnation. he might as well lead his culprits to the scaffold at once without the mockery of trial. the sword of the law should never fall but on those whose guilt is so apparent as to be pronounced by their friends as well as foes.
To Sarah Mease, March 26, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders know right decisions can still be painful.
Sarah Mease, a highly educated woman from Philadelphia, wrote a respectful and gracious letter on behalf of “Mr. Hall,” a marshal in that city. He was likely to be dismissed from his job, where he had served under the staunchly Federalist administration. Marshals selected jurors for jury trials.

Hall had a wife and eight children to support. She testified to his character and suggested Federalist office-holders dictated Hall’s jury selections. In other words, he was just doing what he was told to do.

We don’t know the details of Hall’s offense. It appears, in a capital case, he selected jurors who were political enemies of the defendant, who found him guilty and put him to death.

Jefferson made an equally thoughtful reply, summarized here:
1. A large family to support prevailed unless “more weighty” factors were involved.
2. It was neither custom nor wise to explain publicly his reasons for Hall’s dismissal.
3. Out of respect for her motives, he would explain privately and confidentially.
4. Hall’s partisan actions allowed the death of one man. It must not happen again.
5. Hall made a mockery of the trial. The defendant could have been hung without one.
6. Capital punishment should apply only when even a man’s friends acknowledge his guilt.
7. He acknowledged the dismissal was “a painful one,” but it was his duty to do so.

These two letters were the only correspondence between Mease and Jefferson.

“Your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson
would be a tremendous program for any organization …”
Executive Director, Missouri School Boards Association
Thomas Jefferson stands ready to inspire, instruct and entertain your audience!
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Leave a comment Posted in Judiciary, Morality Tagged , , , , , , |

I must have wine!

… you mention having for disposal two casks of white & red Sherry, and one of Malaga. if the Sherry be dry, I will gladly take them, as also the Malaga. if you could order for me a pipe [cask] of dry Pacharetti, and one of dry Sherry of the first qualities, to be forwarded from Spain by the first safe occasion I should be obliged to you … I wish the wines as old as could be got, so as to be ready for immediate use
To Joseph Yznardi, Sr., March 24, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders are very particular about their lubrication.
After Jefferson sold his personal library of 23,000 books to Congress, he wrote, “I cannot live without books.” He began to buy more books. He did not write, “I cannot live without wine,” but he certainly could have. He loved wine, having two or three glasses each evening, more if the after-dinner company was particularly enjoyable. He limited the alcohol’s effect by drinking only weaker wines.

The footnote to this letter, available at the Yznardi link above, provides details on what Jefferson received from this order. The “pipe” alone contained 129 gallons.

Note that Jefferson did not inquire about the price or set a limit on what he would pay. Another source claims, “According to Hailman’s Jefferson on Wine, Jefferson spent $3,200 per year on wine during his first term, which equates to roughly 13% of his annual salary.”

“What a unique presentation you offered as Thomas Jefferson
for the luncheon keynote …”
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
A unique presentation awaits your audience, too! (But no wine. Sorry.)
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Is the majority ALWAYS right?

… where two measures are equally right, it is a duty to the people to adopt that one which is most agreeable to them; & where a measure not agreeable to them has been adopted, it is desireable to know it, because it is an admonition to a review of that measure to see if it has been really right, & to correct it if mistaken. it is rare that the public sentiment decides immorally or unwisely, and the individual who differs from it ought to distrust & examine well his own opinion.
To William Findley, March 24, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders want to know if they get it wrong.
Findley had expressed his opinion to the new President about the fitness of certain Pennsylvanians for federal office. Jefferson thanked him for his views, and while non-committal, reviewed his standards for who should stay in office and who should go, discussed in a previous post.

Jefferson then outlined some general principles on majority rule:
1. If two choices are both right, people should choose the one they like best.
2. If some disagree with a choice, they should make their displeasure known.
3. Knowing that, the choice can be reviewed and corrected if wrong.
4. Rarely does the public majority choose “immorally or unwisely.”
5. The individual who disagrees with the majority ought to question himself first, not the majority.

In general, Jefferson’s default position was to trust the majority, provided they did not use their position to restrict the rights of the minority.

“Without question, you enjoy an actor’s sense of timing and theater
that makes a lasting impression.”
Western Coal Transportation Association
Mr. Jefferson will make a lasting impression on your audience.
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Should the President’s views even matter?

I hope however that the time may arive when the Safty of our Civil and Religious Rights will not so much depend on the disposition of the person administring the Executive branch of Government, as at present it does-
To Thomas Jefferson from Moses Robinson, March 3, 1801

I sincerely wish with you we could see our government so secured as to depend less on the character of the person in whose hands it is trusted. bad men will sometimes get in, & with such an immense patronage, may make great progress in corrupting the public mind & principles. this is a subject with which wisdom & patriotism should be occupied.
To Moses Robinson, March 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Great leaders seek less power, not more.
Former Vermont Governor and Senator Robinson congratulated the new President and cheered America’s return to the republican (small r) values of 1776. He saw President Adams’ administration as moving further away from those values. To Robinson, the “Civil and Religious Rights” of the citizens were so basic that they were beyond partisan wrangling. The political views of the President should have no influence in those realms.

Jefferson concurred. He longed to see constitutional rights so firmly established that the personality or political leanings of the President simply didn’t matter. The job of the executive would be limited to those few duties given by the Constitution. From that limited-responsibility perspective, a President’s personal views simply didn’t matter when it came to civil and religious rights.

Jefferson could be naive in how he viewed the world, but perhaps not so naive as some think. He acknowledged the danger of “bad men” gaining public office. With great political spoils (jobs, business, favors) to spread about, they “may make great progress in corrupting the public mind & principles.” He suggested both “wisdom & patriotism” should be devoted to studying … and combating …this inherent danger.

“Thomas Jefferson … did a great job of putting our regulatory burden in perspective.”
Citizens National Bank, Springfield, MO
Mr. Jefferson’s perspective will bring value to your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Politics, Religion Tagged , , , , , , |

How do we win back political foes?

if we can but avoid shocking their feelings by unnecessary acts of severity against their late friends, they will in a little time cement & form one mass with us, & by these means harmony & union be restored to our country, which would be the greatest good we could affect … these people did not differ from us in principle … I do not speak of the desperados of the quondam [former ] faction, in & out of Congress. these I consider as incurables, on whom all attentions would be lost, & therefore will not be wasted. but my wish is to keep their flock from returning to them.
To William Branch Giles, March 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek to heal political wounds.
Earlier in this letter to a political ally from Virginia, the newly-inaugurated President listed some thoughts about which Federalist office-holders he should keep and which he should dismiss. They would not clean house completely, nor would they keep all of them in office. They should retain those who could do their job fairly and dismiss those who would try to undermine the new administration.

Three groups clearly faced the ax:
1. Those appointed by President Adams after his defeat but before he left office.
2. “officers who have been guilty of official mal-conduct …”
3. “Attorneys & Marshals,” because they controlled access to courts packed with Federalist judges who could not be removed.
All other Federalist holdovers might reasonably expect to remain in office.

Jefferson hoped to bridge the partisan divide that had polarized the nation. If he could go forward without giving unnecessary offense to his political enemies, he might win the majority of those opponents to a common national cause. That “would be the greatest good we could affect.”

He had no plan for wooing Federalist leaders. He considered them “desperados” and “incurables.” Trying to convince them  was a waste of time. But he did hope to separate them from their followers, whose essential principles were not that different his own.

“You are not the traditional conference speaker!
That’s why we hired you!”
Excellence in Missouri Foundation
A traditional speaker for your audience … or Thomas Jefferson?
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1 Comment Posted in Politics Tagged , , , , , , |

Governments grab power. Elections slap government’s hands.

I perfectly agree with you that while it is necessary to clothe public magistrates with powers sufficiently nervous [strong] for order & defence that every surrender of power beyond that is improper. I believe too that a great deal more than usually is, might be left to private morality in the regulation of our own nature … it is a general truth that legislatures are too fond of interposing their power & of governing too much. the right of election by the people shews itself daily more and more valuable. it is a peaceable means of producing reformation … [otherwise, the people] will have no resource but in the sword … I wish them [elections] more frequent than they are, especially in some of the public functionaries.
To Isaac Weaver, Jr., March 21, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Minimalist government leaders appreciate frequent elections.
  The President agreed with the Republican Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, who wrote him that elected officials should have enough authority to enforce order at home, and to protect the citizen from invasion from abroad,” but no more.
Jefferson made these minimalist observations:
1. Citizens should not yield any more authority than for these two causes.
2. People should more often be “left to private morality” for self-governance.
3. Legislatures usually sought more power and control, not less.
4. “Election by the people” brought reform peacefully and avoided armed rebellion.
5. To keep a tighter rein on politicians, elections should be held even more often.

“Patrick was a pleasure to work with. He is professional, timely and accurate …”
Manager, Conference and Travel, Kansas City Life Insurance Company
 Mr. Jefferson, too, is professional, time and accurate.
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Just say NO!

The desire you express to prefix my name to the work you are about to publish is gratifying to me … the matter of your work possesses too much self importance to need any adventitious aid from external circumstances. it cannot fail to recommend itself to a very general attention. I ask the favor of you to consider me as one of the subscribers to it, & to accept my friendly & respectful salutations.
To George Caines, March 21, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Being too polite can hinder a leader’s effectiveness.
In a recent post, Jefferson demurred from an author’s request to dedicate his book to the President. Though the work was not published, a draft included a dedication to Jefferson, nonetheless.

George Caines, in a March 10 letter, made the same request for his book on merchant law. Jefferson was complimentary of the book and said it should appeal broadly without any help from another source (including him). He did not say no to Caines’ request, though that was clearly his intent. And he did place an order for one of the books. He should have known better. The book was published and contained a dedication to him.

No harm befell Jefferson, but his tendency to be polite occasionally worked against him.

You will find Mr. Jefferson unfailingly polite to your audience!
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You think I am without vices? Ha!

You have never had but one vice. I compliment your fatherland and both worlds on the fact that you have finally lost it. Greetings and respect.
To Thomas Jefferson from du Pont (De Nemours), New York, Feb. 20, 1801

How many hard struggles, my dear friend, would it save me, had I really parted with my last vice on the 3d. of March. I thought you had known me better: but as you do not, I must endeavor to conceal, if I cannot eradicate, what remains amiss.
To Pierre Samuel du Pont De Nemours, March 21, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders recognize their own vices.
Four years older, the French intellectual du Pont and Jefferson became acquainted during the latter’s time in France. The du Pont family later fled French anarchy and emigrated to America, where the friendship continued.
The full text of du Pont’s letter is above. (Credit for the translation is provided in the sidebar at the first link.) What former single vice he referred to is unclear. Might it have been a matter of jest between friends? du Pont wrote three days after the House of Representatives finally decided the contested Presidential race in Jefferson’s favor.
Jefferson’s reply contained a bit of his rare, wry humor. First, he identified his last vice as public office and lamented he didn’t part with it on March 3, his last day as Vice President. Instead, he had committed himself to four more years in the public eye.
Next, perhaps Jefferson is jesting back, suggesting his friend really doesn’t know him very well, to ascribe only one vice, and it now departed. But since du Pont was already deceived, Jefferson would attempt to conceal all the rest of his faults, too.
One of du Pont’s sons was a chemist and founded what would become the world-wide conglomerate known today by the same name.

Your audience might see a bit of Jefferson’s rare, wry humor, too!
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Hold your horses!

I snatch half a moment to inform you that a circumstance has occurred which will inevitably keep me a week longer or thereabouts. in the mean time my horses will wait I presume at Heron’s. my tender love to my dear Martha, & the little ones. Affectionate attachment to yourself.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, March 19, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes leaders have to hold their horses (or have them held).
When Jefferson travelled home to Monticello, he made advance arrangements to have his horses brought part way from home, that he might use them for the last segment of his journey. In this instance, he had already written to his son-in-law (married to his elder daughter Martha), asking to have those horses brought to a certain place by a certain time.

The new President was having trouble filling a key office. He was reluctant to leave Washington City until that had been accomplished. Thus, he wrote again about the delay, asking that his horses be held another week at the pre-appointed place.

Ever the doting father and grandfather, he sent along his affections for Martha and the children.

Mr. Jefferson will make every effort not be delayed when he attends your meeting!
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How would you let YOUR name be used?

The proposition you are pleased to make of dedicating to me your Dictionary of elegant essays cannot but be grateful to me … you are perfectly right in believing me a sincere friend of science & of it’s propagation and advancement …
So much public as well as personal mischief has ensued from the publication of letters either written or pretended to have been written by me, that I am obliged to accompany them with an express request that they may be guarded against that.
To Jonathon H. Nichols, March 9, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders are wary about how others use their names.
Mr. Nichols’ motive in dedicating his book to the new President is unknown. Was it out of devotion or to use Jefferson’s name to promote it? Nor do we know the content of Nichols’ essays. Jefferson took the request at face value, acknowledged the compliment and affirmed himself as “a sincere friend of science.”
The thin-skinned Jefferson had been in the public eye for 15 years. He had experienced his letters written for private consumption being misinterpreted or misunderstood, then falling into the wrong hands, made public and used against him. He neither approved nor denied Nichols’ request but cautioned him against letting that happen here. In an omitted portion, Jefferson even warned Nichols about letting his servants see this letter lest they “pervert [it] to their own advantage …”
If you like, click on the link above and read the footnote. Jefferson’s fears were not unfounded.

Most likely, Mr. Jefferson would be honored to associate his name with your audience.
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1 Comment Posted in Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , |